If you missed the first half of this post, check it out at Part 1 of My Top 10 Most Unforgettable Travels in 2013.
After getting married in a fairytale-like Nordic island called Aeroskobing, we flew back to Switzerland, packed our luggages again and went on to our honeymoon the next day. Yet the honeymoon seemed to continue after Italy. We also went to visit Porto in Portugal for a long weekend, and the Philippines for 3 weeks.
Otherwise known as the “Five Lands,” Cinque Terre features five beautiful fishing villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. We stayed in Levanto, a village that lies at the northern end of these little villages of Cinque Terre. After many months of being in the cold, we had our first good dose of Italian sun at its beach.
We took the train to visit these five villages, starting at the opposite end and heading back to Levanto. We were only able to visit Riomaggiore, Manarola and Monterosso al Mare. We thought we could be able to visit the two other villages by car, but we found out along the way that the roads heading to Vernazza and Corniglia were closed. Taking the hiking trails in Cinque Terre would have been an amazing, rewarding experience as well.
As soon as we reached Tuscany, we visited Pisa to see its famous leaning campanile; and the walled city Lucca to see the symbolic tower with trees sitting atop of it. We stayed in a centuries-old villa in Buggiano, which is a dainty village sitting atop of a hill with a panoramic sight of other Tuscan towns and olive trees growing bountiful all around. We also went to visit Florence particularly, the Medici chapels, the Uffizi Gallery and Ponte Vecchio. Then we relaxed ourselves in historic thermal baths before we headed to equally stunning Siena.
The province of Siena has the most majestic, enchanting hilly landscapes that I’ve ever seen, particularly, the Val d’Orcia that we saw afar from Pienza, which is also one of the interesting medieval villages I visited. We also went around to visit the famous wine villages – Montepulciano and Montelcino. And of course, we also visited the medieval city, Siena.
It was a bummer that we didn’t stay in Siena that long. Staying either in a rustic farmhouse or a romantic medieval castle, we could have enjoyed hiking or biking around its cultivated lands, relishing traditional Italian dishes and savory Tuscan wines, visiting historical sites and more. If there’s any chance, I’ll surely come back to Siena. Here it’s dolce vita at its finest.
Truth is, it was in Verona that I fell in love right away to a seductive Amarone della Valpolicella. I enjoyed Amarone very much when we went to an open wine tasting in Musella estate and during an exquisite dinner at Antica Bottega del Vino. A euphoric moment it was that I started moonlighting of becoming a sommelier, for the nth time! I might be infatuated, yet indeed it was still a luscious meeting between Amarone and I.
Then of course, Venice. Seeing its grand architecture and artworks, and the charming gondolas, I surely was smitten.
I’ve always been curious about Portugal. It started when I asked my dad, “Of all the places you have been, which is the best for you?” And he answered, “Portugal. Lisbon, particularly.”
It was supposed to be Lisbon first, but since he’s been there already, hubby suggested if there’s any other place in Portugal where I can take my training. I replied, “there is one in Porto.” Obviously for me, Porto is unheard of. At any rate, I don’t mind. It’s still a slice of Portugal I can enjoy for the first time. Off we then went to Porto.
It was its old mysterious, gothic charm that makes Porto fascinating. Walking along its old zigzag streets is a labyrinth to the city’s extravagant baroque churches and iconic buildings, while the steep ones lead to the Ribiera, the oldest part of Porto and a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, straddling along the Rio Duoro. Porto feasted us with its gastronomical specialties such as tripas à modo do Porto, tripe cooked with dried beans, vegetables, pig’s trotters and offals served with rice; bacalhau, dried and salted cod cooked in different ways (one of which I had was bacalhau com todos, as translated literally, “cod with everyone,” which consisted of boiled bacalhau and vegetables and seasoned with olive oil, garlic and wine vinegar); francesinha, bread topped with steak, sausage and cheese and a beer-flavored sauce; and pastel de nata, the infamous Portuguese egg tart. And of course, the Port Wine, or Vinho do Porto, is a sweet, red wine with huge varieties, that is exclusively produced in the Duoro valley in Porto.
It’s a perfect weekend after all. Yet visiting Porto doesn’t seem to be enough, I’m afraid. I eagerly look forward to visiting Portugal again, and hopefully I make it to Lisbon.
10. At home in Pinas with my Mister
I have been away from home for almost 2 years, so just imagine how excited I was when we decided to spend our new year holiday in the Philippines. Not only I would be able to see my family and friends again, but I also would be able to formally present my husband with them. At the same time, I also planned to tour him around more, so he can see tids-and-bits of my home country.
The Philippines isn’t entirely new for him. As a matter of fact, it must be his fifth visit to the country already, but usually it’s only for the New Year celebration in Boracay when he and his friends from all over, who’ve originally met each other either in Shanghai or Hong Kong, would get all together. After the NYC in Boracay, we then flew to Cebu, took a ferry to Dumaguete, flew back to Manila and wandered there around, and went on a road trip to Batangas and Tagaytay. So far, he survived. Happy moi!
So…what’s up for On the Go in 2014?
No definite travel plans so far, as it’s always been the case. Predictably we could be in more places in Europe or in the Philippines maybe during the holidays. What I can assure somehow – because this is going to be my new year’s resolution – is that I’ll spend time to blog more about my travels. Right away, beefed up with lots of stories, photos, tips and ideas worth sharing.
Apart from that, I wish our traveling would be more into “quality over quantity.” A slow travel so to speak, and for me that means, we stay longer in one place without the maddening rush to get to another destination, so we can really get to know more about the place, and spend quality time with ourselves and each other at the same time. Take a pause. Think and immerse. Saunter and enjoy the details.
Let our feet itch to travel again and take us where it will interest us. So 2014, give us some giddy-yaps!